Want a Degree for Free?

If yes, the University of the People might be the place to enroll. It is a tuition-free four-year-old online institution serving students throughout the globe. And it is accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council. It has lots of support from places such as the Gates Foundation, Microsoft, and NYU! If thanks to this note thousands of students transfer from Maryland System institutions to UoPeople, instead please blame that on an article in the New York Times (14 February 2014).

 Need a Diploma?

Received via email: “The lack of a degree is a drag on your career? Your professional skills are all that matters, but getting a diploma won’t hurt. Your career won’t stop where it is now with a new education award. Call us now in the United States at 3I04940II2. We need your name, phone number and country-code. Let’s discuss your problem. Give your career a real boost up with an authentic diploma. Best regards, The Quick Diploma Group.” Why struggle at a Maryland university for four or more years when you can get a quick diploma in about four minutes? Alternatively, there may be software for diploma-making. The editor of The Faculty Voice once (after earning a doctorate) paid $25 for a diploma to see what it was about. The document arrived, but alas after a year it had almost completely faded. So maybe the message is to get the $25 diploma but use it right away.

Tuition Going Up (Again)

♦ Students at Maryland state colleges and universities are likely to face a 3% tuition increase based upon the governor’s budget proposal. The University System of Maryland wanted a 5% increase, but the governor’s office was able to push it down to a 3%. System Chancellor Brit Kirwan: “The System is very pleased with the governor’s budget. We know that resources are extremely tight in Annapolis.” Everything is a matter of priorities, so maybe the hospital in PG County is more important than not raising tuition. We look to the zero-sum experts for our explanations. The good news nationally is that the rate of tuition increases has slowed. But gads, just thirty years ago $10k was about right for a private institution and $3k for publics. How the figures are about $30k and $9k. Triple!

♦ That source of great wisdom (or…?), The Onion (12 February 2014), begins a report as follows: “Saying that his great grandparents could have never even dreamed of squandering such a fortune, recent college graduate Eric Singer told reporters … that he is the first person in his family to throw away $160,000 [on tuition]. And he’s going to raise that sum by quite a bit because he’s planning to go to law school.” Too bad he didn’t live in Tennessee, where the governor is proposing two free years of community college or technical school.

Tuition Could Go Down?

“A mere $62.6 billion dollars! According to new DOE data, that’s how much tuition public colleges collected from undergraduates in 2012 across the entire United States. I’m not being facetious with the word mere, either. The New America Foundation says that the federal government spent a whole $69 billion in 2013 on its hodgepodge of financial aid programs, such as Pell Grants for low-income students, tax breaks, work study funding. And that doesn’t even include loans. If we were we scrapping our current system and starting from scratch, Washington could make public college tuition free with the money it sets aside its scattershot attempts to make college affordable today. Of course, making tuition free in 2012 would have required $62.6 billion on top of what state and local governments already spend subsidizing public colleges, as well as some of the federal spending that doesn’t go towards financial aid.”

Law School Applicants

The almost steady decline in the number of applicants to law schools is remarkable. Back in 2003 and 2004, the number was about 100,000. In 2013, the number had dropped to 59,400. Don’t we need lawyers anymore? How to fill the seats? Well, over the same time period, the admission percentages have gone from just over 50% to the latest, 77%. What does that do to the quality of the classroom? And later, to the courtroom? What does that do to the budgets of law schools?

One notable shift has been the increase in non-Euro students. It has been argued that many non-Euro students do not do well in classrooms of the Socratic and case methods. Were teaching methods to change, would that lead to more non-Euro applicants and then lawyers?

If not law school, where do students go? One explanation: “The last decade has witnessed the emergence of many new professional jobs, especially in computer science, health care, and engineering. …Those brand-new occupations include several that would interest bright high school students: information security analyst, computer network architect, web developer, computer network support specialist, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, nurse practitioner, and genetic counselor. Those new occupations already employ more than 629,000 people–more than the number of judges, magistrates, lawyers, and judicial clerks (620,340 total) reported in the same occupational survey.”

The Belle Knox Solution

Surely there’s nothing but sympathy for the Duke student who decided to engage in sex work to pay at least part of the $60k annual costs of the university. The costs of higher education have soared, and the states and feds have been walking away from providing help. So how can a middle class student afford quality universities? By doing some work on the side, which is what Ms. Knox (her stage name) did. And the story is even more dramatic: Her father finished medical school twenty years ago and is still paying off his education. What does that have to do with Maryland? Well, there are current students who are engaged in work that parents usually don’t approve of, but the work is necessary to keep financially afloat in the higher ed of contemporary America. There are some sad changes of late.

State Aid

♦ In 2011-12, the 50 states and the District of Columbia spent a total of $6.8-billion on need-based grant aid for college students. Maryland’s total grant aid as a percentage of total state higher-education spending was 6%. Neighbor Virginia spent 14%. Neighbor West Virginia spent 19%. And neighbor Delaware spent 10%. But looking at undergraduate need-based aid per FTE student, the states do not significantly differ.

♦ A bill has just been put forward in the Maryland Senate that might help teacher ed students. Senator Ramirez tells us: SB 801, Teach it Forward Act 2014, requires the Maryland Higher Education Commission to develop the Maryland Teach It Forward Pilot Program that allows students enrolled in teaching programs to pay back their tuition at an affordable rate commensurate with their income level after graduation. Let’s hope it passes.

Where Will the Jobs Be?



Health Care + Social Assistance




Educational Services


Professional + Business Services


The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has announced what will be the growth jobs fields in the 2012-2022 period. The table (right) shows the projected annual rate of change. And thanks to our aging population and a wider sweep of health insurance, that’s the area expected to have the greatest job growth. Construction, education, and professional-business services follow.

Of the 30 occupations projected to have the largest percentage increase between 2012 and 2022, 14 are related to healthcare and 5 are related to construction.

Two-thirds of the 30 occupations with the largest projected employment increase typically do not require postsecondary education for entry. They include personal care aides, home health aides, food preparation and serving, and construction workers. So to get a job, higher education may not be the needed ticket; but to get a better paying and more knowledge-based job, some or a lot of higher education is called for.

ll of this information should be readily available to guidance counselors. Alas, some counselors are not fully informed, and few schools have the human resources to do what’s necessary in guiding students.

Do Years of Education Matter?

♦ There are some strange relationships between level of education and unemployment rates as reported in the College Board’s “Education Pays 2013.” Looking at race/ethnicity-specific patterns, education level doesn’t make much difference for Asians, and it makes big differences among African-Americans and Euro-Americans. Latino/as are in the middle.

♦ But wait: The New York Times (13 February 2014) reveals that the new graduates are having a tough time: “Though joblessness for college graduates ages 25 and older looks tame, the jobless rate for those under 25 averaged 8.2 percent in 2013, compared with 8 percent in 2012 and 5.4 in 2007, before the Great Recession hit in full force.” Wow: More education is not a magical ticket to a job, and the change from 2012 and 2013 indicates that the situation may be getting worse.

Test More?

Giving and grading quizzes at the beginning of every class enhances students’ performance in the class, according to a small U. Texas study that had the students take the quiz on laptops. Well, students do study in relationship to tests. (It helps to sell coffee or five-hour something-or-other.) Do readers agree? Is there a negative relationship to test frequency and enrollment in a not-required course? One of the course professors commented that some negative student reaction was caused by having to study rather than have a beer with fellow non-tested students!

African-American Doctorates

According to NSF as reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education (17 January 2014), the leading two non-HBCU institutions graduating African-Americans who later earned doctorates in science and engineering during 2002-2011 were UMBC and UMCP.

Student Teaching Assistants

♦ The TAs at NYU have overwhelmingly voted to unionize, and they will affiliate with the United Automobile Workers. That follows CUNY and a score of other campuses. We are reminded of a 4 December 2013 article in the New York Times which includes this: “Only a quarter of the academic work force is tenured, or on track for tenure, down from more than a third in 1995. The majority hold contingent jobs—mostly part-time adjuncts but also graduate assistants and full-time lecturers. And the Service Employees International Union, with members in health care, maintenance and public service, is moving hard and fast to add the adjuncts to their roster, organizing at private colleges in several urban areas. In [the Washington area], it has unionized American University, Georgetown, George Washington and Montgomery College.

♦ Johns Hopkins is increasing the graduate student stipends in the humanities and social sciences by cutting the number of funded graduate students. Is this a good tradeoff?

Women Enrollment

Enrollment in Maryland’s institutions of higher education once again indicates that females continue to be the gender majority. The 357,394 women constitute 57% of all students in Fall 2013: at community colleges, 59%, at Maryland System institutions, 55%.

Academic Generosity

We happened across a 2011 study of grade inflation. There are almost no surprises, but perhaps it is worth emphasizing that A grades have soared. “Most recently, about 43% of all letter grades given were A’s, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. The distribution of B’s has stayed relatively constant; the growing share of A’s instead comes at the expense of a shrinking share of C’s, D’s and F’s. In fact, only about 10 percent of grades awarded are D’s and F’s. … private colleges and universities are by far the biggest offenders on grade inflation, even when you compare private schools to equally selective public schools.” The old normal 10-20-40-20-10 is ancient history. Are students really getting better (despite studying less, as other research indicates), or are professors increasingly avoiding conflict by paying students off (bribing them?) with higher grades?

Student Cheating

Sure students cheat. Some studies indicate that over half of students in higher education have cheated. One report: 73% of all test takers, including prospective graduate students and teachers agree that most students do cheat at some point. 86% of high school students agreed. We can think: They are only cheating themselves. But sometimes it can be more serious, as witnessed by this New York Times report (15 January 2014): “The Air Force said on [January 15] that 34 officers responsible for launching the nation’s nuclear missiles had been suspended, and their security clearances revoked, for cheating on monthly proficiency tests that assess their knowledge of how to operate the warheads.” Imagine getting an order not to launch but pushing the wrong button!

Worst Graduation Rates

There sure are some low rates around the country. Are they low because the institution wants to grab a bit of tuition money but without caring about education, or are the institutions giving a bit of higher education to students would not have that experience elsewhere? The bottom: Southern U. at New Orleans, 4%; UDC, 7.7%; a few others; Coppin State U., 16.3%.

Enrollments Changes

♦ Maryland Public Higher Ed: In 2006, the Maryland System had 135,319 students, and by 2012 the number had risen to 155,603. But that masks the decline in first-time freshmen from 14,301 to 12,896. Is that the result of the increasingly visible community college option? Seems so because Bowie, Coppin, Frostburg, UMB, UMCP, UMES, and UMUC also experienced declines in first-time freshmen. Coppin was the only campus that experienced an overall drop of not only first-time freshmen but also total undergraduates and total graduates. (Note: The Fall 2013 data are still estimates.)

♦ Community Colleges: Reportedly, the enrollments at most community colleges have declined year-to-year in Maryland, Virginia, and D. C. Montgomery College, with the largest enrollment, is an exception; from Fall 2010 to Fall 2013, it had a slight 1% uptick. But the Community College of Baltimore County declined 8%; Anne Arundel Community College was down 7%; and Prince George’s Community College dropped 8%.

♦ Decline of freshmen, decline at the community colleges. Where are the 19-year-olds? Do the data suggest an uptick in employment opportunities or a downtick in area fertility or the rise of apprenticeships?

♦ And what about law schools? In 2003, 99,500 people applied to law school, and in 2012 it was only 67,900. Don’t we need so many lawyers anymore? If so, is it because we can outsource so much routine work to overseas technicians?

Youth Alternative to College

In the USA, many commentators insist that going to college is the way to succeed. Certainly, it is for some young people. But maybe not all. Here are two comments on the issue:

♦ The apprenticeship program now well established in Germany is a viable alternative. Bloomberg Businessweek wrote the below back in 2012 (July 19): “The German concept is simple: After students complete their mandatory years of schooling, usually around age 18, they apply to a private company for a two or three year training contract. If accepted, the government supplements the trainee’s on-the-job learning with more broad-based education in his or her field of choice at a publicly funded vocational school. Usually, trainees spend three to four days at work and one to two in the classroom. At the end, the theory goes, they come out with both practical and technical skills to compete in a global market, along with a good overall perspective on the nature of their profession. They also receive a state certificate for passing company exams, designed and administered by industry groups—a credential that allows transfer to similarly oriented businesses should the training company not retain them beyond the initial contract.”

♦ A college degree may result in a job for which a college degree is not necessary: “The number of new college graduates far exceeds the growth in the number of technical, managerial, and professional jobs where graduates traditionally have gravitated. As a consequence, we have a new phenomenon: underemployed college graduates doing jobs historically performed by those with much less education. We have, for example, more than 100,000 janitors with college degrees, and 16,000 degree-holding parking lot attendants.” For instance, BLS reports that college grads constitute 14% of waiters and 16.5% of bartenders. But wait, surely the college experience makes one a more interesting person, and more interesting people tend to do better jobs waiting and tending – thus getting better tips.

♦ Go to college to earn more money in a lifetime. Still true, but according to a College Board report, the earnings gap is narrowing. If having a high school diploma earns a norm of 100, then getting a bachelor’s degree has a norm of 165 in lifetime earnings. That’s narrowing a bit. The additional education is also linked with unemployment: the more education, the lower the unemployment rate. Can it be that the electricians are making about the same money as, say, English majors? (If so, does that consider happiness?)


The FV certainly doesn’t know much about job opportunities. We can call on career centers for that. But we have heard from a student who just graduated with a master’s degree in economics. Her only job opportunity was a call center for an IT company, and here’s what she wrote to us: “As for a call center, the issue is not only about the technical part but also and mainly about the mental stress you have to deal with eight hours per day. It is very stressing to get insulted and cooling down angry customers all day long. I feel so good at the end of the day when I think I’ll be away from that at least for a few hours before coming back again the day after. I’m afraid for my mental health, I feel so frustrated and tired each day. All of my colleagues are in the same mental desperation.” Maybe we should lobby call centers to provide more rest periods and better mental health services. And certainly we should be understanding when we contact a call center.




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